gfiles magazine

April 9, 2012

‘Consumer is the king’

‘Consumer is the king’
RAJIV AGARWAL, a 1975 batch IAS officer, is in charge of handling the affairs of the Department of Consumer Affairs. His Department is looking after Consumer Courts, Standards, Legal Metrology and the Futures Markets. Management of pulses is also the responsibility of this Department. Helping in this task is his degree in law besides his Masters in Physics. Agarwal has a long experience in agro industries and the cooperatives sector, having served as the CEO of Maharashtra Agro Industries Development Corporation, Commissioner of Sugar and Secretary in Maharashtra. He has also held the job of Managing Director, National Cooperative Development Corporation, a financial institution serving the needs of cooperatives in India. He was also Collector of Ahmednagar and Raigad Districts, and Municipal Commissioner of Nasik and Pune. In addition, in his long career, he has worked as Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs in-charge of the North-Eastern Region and Additional Secretary, Department of Justice. Here, he explains how the Department of Consumer Affairs is focussed on consumer protection and empowerment.
interviewed by Anil Tyagi and Dr GS Sood
gfiles: The country is celebrating 25 years of the consumer movement. How has the movement progressed and what has been the role of your ministry? Are you happy with the present state of affairs as seen from the point of view of fulfilling the aspirations that consumers have from your ministry?  
Rajiv Agarwal:This ministry is known as the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. It has two distinct departments, one being Consumer Affairs and the other Food and Public Distribution. The work of the Food and Public Distribution department is obviously much more loaded because they have to ensure food security for all people. The Consumer Affairs department is basically for the welfare of the consumers. Anybody who consumes some products or services is a consumer. There are three or four major areas this Department is actively working in. One, of course, is the Consumer Protection Act, which was enacted in 1986 on the recommendations of a UN committee. This is actually based on what is known as common law in the English legal system, where they have the law of torts. ‘Torts’, as you are aware, is basically an actionable civil law. In India, the law of torts has traditionally been very weak and not many people go to courts seeking compensation under it. So, the Act has in fact formalised some areas of the law of torts for aggrieved consumers. ......READMORE :

Are bureaucrats ‘controlling’ the military?

Are bureaucrats ‘controlling’ the military?
The controversy over the Army Chief’s age and the alleged conspiratorial role played by the bureaucracy to fan it points to such a situation
IN his 1998 treatise titled The Soldier and the State, former Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat writes: “The modern military profession exists as part of the government in so far as the term ‘government’ includes the executive departments of the nation-state….Modern democracies therefore pay great attention to the supremacy of the political class over the military in governance, normally referred to as ‘civilian control of the military’. This is clearly how it should be, since all ultimate power and decision making should be wielded by the elected representatives of the people.”
Much water has flown down the rivers since then and ‘civilian control of the military’ has taken the different tone and tenor of ‘bureaucrats controlling the military’. The maneuverings behind the shortening of the serving Army Chief’s tenure and the allegedly conspiratory role played by Defence Ministry bureaucrats, in full media gaze, has brought this subject into sharp focus. The common refrain among senior military veterans is that bureaucrats have over-reached in their efforts to ‘control’ the military.
Defence analyst Maroof Raza echoes this view: “The system has closed around the Chief and this will only embolden the bureaucracy. The fallout will be that at least for two generations, no military commander will raise his head. And the message for military commanders is that it isn’t merit or accuracy of documents that will get them promotions, but pandering to the politico-bureaucratic elite. The last bastion of professional meritocracy in India has crumbled. The damage will be lasting.”......READMORE :

The missing will

The missing will
With a big question mark over the acceptability of NCTC by States, the answer lies in providing autonomy to the police as mandated by the Supreme Court. But the political class does not want to let go of its control over the police.
AT the core of the current disagreement between the Centre and some states on the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) lies the unpleasant reality that politicians in India who hold ministerial offices do not want to let the police slip out of their absolute control. The Constitution placed the police under the State as the thinking at that time was that police was primarily for managing law and order problems. The Police Act of 1861 had laid down that the police will function under the superintendence of the provincial authorities. The constitutional provision was thus in line with the prevailing environment.
This environment was, however, to change soon. The Police Act was intended to keep the British Raj and its officers safe through control over the police. But even after gaining Independence, the methods of governance and attitudes towards instruments of governance remained largely derivatives of the British legacy. ......READMORE :

MP’s new ‘dacoits’

MP’s new ‘dacoits’
The death of IPS officer Narendra Kumar in Morena not only reveals the ugly face of rampant illegal mining in Madhya Pradesh, but also exposes an unholy nexus between politicians and bureaucrats
by Ravindra Dubey
(From Morena, Gwalior and Bhopal)
March 8, 2012. The morning of festivities, the day of Holi. Narendra Kumar, the IPS probationer in Banmore tehsil of Morena in Madhya Pradesh, got a tip-off that a tractor trolley was about to pass from his area carrying illegally mined material. He, along with a couple of his staff members, stationed himself on the route from where the vehicle was to pass. He did not have to wait long. Soon a tractor approached with stones laden in its trolley. He signalled it to stop and boarded it even as it was moving. The driver was reluctant to stop. In the scuffle that ensued, Narendra Kumar fell down. The driver tried to turn the tractor and in the process, its rear wheel crushed the IPS officer who died on the spot. The driver Manoj Gurjar was immediately arrested.
The young IPS officer’s death opened up a pandora’s box in the State. Narendra Kumar’s IAS wife Madhurani Tevatia alleged her husband was brutally murdered by the mining mafia that was active in the area. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, after coming under pressure from all sides, announced a CBI enquiry. Though the debate is still on whether it was a murder or an accident, the incident exposed the nexus between State politicians, policemen and bureaucrats in the mining sector.
The figures about illegal mining in the State are staggering. By a conservative estimate, illegal mining in the last few years was worth a whopping Rs 10,000 crore. According to a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report presented in the MP Vidhan Sabha, the State government lost a revenue of Rs 1,496 crore in 6,906 cases of irregularities related to mining during the financial years between 2005 and 2010. MP also topped the country’s illegal mining list with 24,630 cases during the last six years, of which 23,390 cases were registered in courts.
The CAG report also revealed several lacunae in the State’s mining sector. It said that the MP mining department did not have its own auditing unit and that there was hardly any payment sought from mining leaseholders towards rural infrastructure development. Moreover, the mining tax in districts like Umaria and Shahdol was not even deposited in government accounts. The report went on to say that because of the negligence in collecting royalty on minerals, the State government lost crores of rupees. ......READMORE :

Follow me or get lost!

Follow me or get lost!
Mamata Banerjee flexes her muscle by getting Dinesh Trivedi to resign, thereby pre-empting his game plan to split the Trinamool Congress

THE equation the Congress had with the Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee has taken a sudden, unforeseen turn from the time Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi placed his maiden rail budget in the Lok Sabha. The situation, however, is almost a repeat of what happened in 2008 except for the end result. That time Prakash Karat had to bow out; this time Mamata Banerjee is still going strong.  
Mamata Banerjee wants to make the Left redundant in Indian politics. She intends to do that by copying everything that the Left used to do. And that has made a confrontation between her and Manmohan Singh, the top neo-liberal leader in our country, inevitable. In 2008, Karat took on Manmohan Singh and tried desperately to stop the ‘operationalisation’ of the Indo-US nuke deal. Up to a point, he even got support from Sonia Gandhi who was keen to avoid a showdown. But finally, Karat lost out to an obdurate Prime Minister.
This time Mamata has taken on Manmohan Singh by stalling his favourite policy decision, opening up the retail sector for FDI. This time again, the Samajwadi Party is ready to be the saviour of the government. And again, for the time being, Sonia Gandhi has not allowed a showdown with Mamata. The rest – the controversial rail budget and its fallout, or skirmishes over RS candidature in Bengal – are just spin-offs.
This time, Dinesh Trivedi was the chosen one of the Prime Minister to repeat the performance of Somnath Chatterjee in 2008. The goal then and now was the same: to free the government from the strain of conscientious pro-poor forces. But four years ago, Singh clashed with an ideologue who had little knowledge of realpolitik. This time, he is facing a hardcore political leader. She has won round one, but many more rounds are to go.......READMORE :

Satraps arrive with a bang

Satraps arrive with a bang
As the recent assembly elections proved yet again, the two national parties – the Congress and the BJP – are losing their spheres of influence to the politically and socially savvy regional parties
THE two national parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, are facing an uncertain future in the national polity as their geographical and social reach has shrunk with 14 Indian States with 410 seats of Lok Sabha having an overwhelming presence of regional forces. The two confront each other in only 117 seats in nine smaller States without a presence of a third force. The regional parties thus would not allow them either a leading role in any combination that could come up for forming the government at the Centre or allow them an opportunity to call shots. The two parties are an anathema to regional forces founded on ethnic aspirations of groups deprived of a share in power, as the leadership in both the parties is dominated by urban-oriented, western-educated professionals and middle class, leaving no space for the emerging political class.
Regional parties have understood the basic urges and ambitions of the classes
whose causes they espouse. They are not wedded to any particular ideology
except for taking power away from urban middle class.
The recent assembly polls give enough indication of the bleak future the two national parties face. The Congress and the BJP could not get even 20 per cent of the seats in the new Uttar Pradesh assembly while the two regional parties, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, grabbed more than 75 per cent of 403 seats. The national parties were reduced to taking solace from their victories in the small states of Manipur and Goa, each holding two seats in the Lok Sabha. The split verdict in Uttarakhand has left both parties uncertain and in Punjab, the Congress could not defeat the Akali Dal though the sentiment was against the incumbent party. Circumstances were right but not the leading person for the Congress.
The Congress and the BJP could not break away from their traditional electoral strategies of luring poor voters with crumbs of personal benefits without any scheme for their empowerment. It clearly indicated that neither was aware of the metamorphosis the deprived class has undergone since the start of flow of resources to rural areas, with agriculture and allied vocations deriving its benefits. The spread of economic comforts led to an arousal of political ambitions. The deprived classes could not enter the leadership structures of the national parties as those holding controls were not willing to give them a due share. The emergent classes had no alternative but to form their own political set-ups.......READMORE :

I decided to serve but not be servile to political masters

‘I decided to serve but not be servile to political masters’
Ex-policeman, topper of 1965 batch (UP cadre), speaks about tackling various law and order situations, from militancy and rioting to overseeing PM’s security

I joined the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1965 and have no regrets about it. It gave me an opportunity to meet, know, and learn from a vast cross-section of people. It gave me the chance to travel widely and to interact with a wide variety of people, from saints to sinners, from men of letters, artists, musicians to hardened criminals and crooks.
In 1963, after completing my graduation from Patna University, I decided to take the civil services exam and got selected in the IPS. I was given the Uttar Pradesh cadre, although Bihar, my home state, was my first choice. UP is a vast and highly fascinating state. I was sent for training to Moradabad. At that time, Sucheta Kripalani was the Chief Minister and Shanti Prasad was Inspector General of Police. The State was then considered to be one of the best governed states. However, this stability was short lived.   
Very early in my career I decided to serve but not be servile to any political master. This decision was driven more by pragmatism than idealism. In 1966, a new phase of politics spearheaded by Dr Ram Manohar Lohia had begun, replacing the old pattern of politics; not just in UP but in the whole country. The emergence of Sanyukt Vidhayak Dal and its coalition politics changed the very foundation of political and administrative structure, and unleashed a phase of political instability. I took this as a boon and decided that I would stick to the rule of law and ignore political personalities. In those days, one could do without political patronage if one was professionally competent.
By God’s grace, I got two exceptionally good trainers. One of them was Mr A N Kaul, then SP Aligarh, and the other Mr K D Sharma. While the former was mild-mannered, gentle and patient, and sought to resolve issues through discussion, Mr Sharma was very strict, hardworking and feared by police officers. These two became my role models and I learnt a lot from them. Then, there was one Inspector Mohammad Ahmad in Hathras, from whom I learnt the practical skills of police work. On my first day at the thana, he advised me to sit on the floor in a pyjama behind a munshi’s (clerk’s) desk and read the thana records. It took me 10 days to do so and by the end I knew which police case was in which record.......READMORE :

Markets orphaned

Markets orphaned
Nothing seems to be going right for the markets. The recent elections in five states gave a clear thumbs down to the Congress party, heightening the fragility of the UPA government. Its chances of lasting a full term have further diminished. The fiasco about the rail budget and rollback of the proposed increase in passenger fares further signalled that reforms under UPA-II remain a distant dream and any expectations of rationalisation of diesel prices appear over-ambitious. The Reserve Bank of India in its mid-term monetary policy review is still not convinced about inflation, which was enough to warrant a rate cut, and has actually gone by a CRR cut only to release much-needed liquidity.
The Union Budget talked of all good things such as tax on gold, Rajiv Gandhi Equity Scheme, cutting the fiscal deficit to 5.1 per cent by borrowing less and capping subsidies.
But the proposals in the finance bill have little to show that the Finance Minister honestly wants to walk the talk. For instance, it is highly unlikely that the fiscal deficit may be cut to 5.1 per cent – a figure that can be achieved only in the best case scenario. The budget has placed heavy reliance on revenues without doing enough on the expenditure side. Besides rolling back excise cuts and the hike in service taxes, it expects to collect substantial sums through non-tax revenues such as disinvestment, the auction of the 2G and 4G telecom spectrum, licence fee and also auction of coal mines, etc.
Most of these revenues are based on the assumption of a GDP growth rate of 7.6 per cent and the economy and markets remaining in a good condition. But a combination of high inflation, which is on the rise again, slowing domestic demand and weak exports may not allow the GDP to grow beyond 7 per cent, making these revenue estimates a bit too optimistic.
The fiscal consolidation that heavily relies on asset sale and not through raising of revenues by taxes may not give comfort to the RBI, which may decide to hold back on the much expected rate cut in its annual monetary policy on April 17. The proposed reduction in fuel subsidy also does not appear credible. ......READMORE :

His Master’s Voice

His Master’s Voice
The politico-bureaucratic nexus seems to have grown to alarming proportions and the number of public servants who have kept away is diminishing fast
India is a democracy where the upper echelons of the executive consist of political entities. Thus, at the top of the huge executive structure we find the political masters holding the real reign of power. Under this political leadership, exists a very large bureaucracy consisting of public servants of all ranks and file. Thus, at the Center we have the IAS officers at the top of the career bureaucrats followed by all kinds of generalists and specialists. In the States, we find the IAS officers closely followed by the IPS officers. The State Civil and Police Service officers form a separate class in importance, which head a huge plethora of government officials of different ranks. This structure is well-known to most of us.
The entire purpose of having these two kinds of executive functionaries — political masters at the top followed, aided and assisted by career bureaucrats — was to keep a fine balance between change and stability. We all know that progress and development, in tune with the fast changing times, is a sine qua non for any progressive society that wants to keep itself alive. But at the same time, some form of ruggedness and stability too is needed so that the entire structure does not wither away without a new one being created. The entire bureaucracy has been framed for this purpose – to have people for whom the only thing that matters is a set of definite rules and regulations as formulated and presented to them, either through the legislature or through the higher executive.
Thus, the way it was initially envisaged by the Constitution makers, public servants were to remain immune to the political developments around them and had to concern themselves only with what the statute books, rules and regulations said. Thus, though the political masters and the government servants would be working together to achieve the goals of governance, they would still be forming separate classes. This would also mean that the change of guard at the higher echelons of governance would not much affect the government servants, either in their fortune or their outlook because their prime concern, focus and loyalty was to be with the statute books and not with the political masters. ......READMORE :

‘Becoming an IAS officer was a proud moment’

‘Becoming an IAS officer was a proud moment’
An IAS officer of the 2011 batch from Delhi Andaman Nicobar Island Civil Services, the hard-working and extremely focused G L Meena joined as DC North-East last year. He talks to Gfiles about some of his personal experiences.
What kind of music do you prefer to listen to?
GL Meena:I belong to Rajasthan and so I prefer Rajasthani folk songs/music only.
What kind of food tempts you the most?
GLM: I am a very simple man with Indian values. Nothing suits me more than dal, roti and sabzi. I prefer home-cooked Indian food.
Which is the last movie you’ve seen? Which character did you like the most in the movie and why?
GLM: Ek Main aur Ek Tu starring Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor. I liked Kareena Kapoor’s role immensely. I loved watching her; she portrays a character of a chirpy, independent girl who has a full-of-life spirit.
Which luxury clothes brand you prefer the most and what is your style statement?
GLM: Raymonds. One should know how to carry clothes and look confident.
Besides governance, what interests you the most?
GLM:I love indulging myself in social activities like events/campaigns targeting issues like dowry, female education in rural areas, etc. Well, you can call me a social activist!... ......READMORE :

Seshan the Alsatian

Seshan the Alsatian
Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan has a gargantuan name that matches his over-bearing ego. He is a Tamil-speaking Brahmin from Palghat. With Brahmins losing their traditional vocations, they have chosen to excel in four fields — as civil servants, musicians, cooks and crooks — in Seshan’s telling phrase.
Seshan had a remarkable career in the bureaucracy. He held important offices, including the coveted post of Cabinet Secretary (although for a few months only). People who knew Seshan of those days summed up his character in one pithy sentence: “He growled at his subordinates and purred at his superiors”. His bosses, both bureaucratic and political, thought of him as a cuddly little poodle, from one whom they could entice a smile, by the elementary device of scratching below his ears.
An officer who had worked with him and suffered his virulent tongue-lashing remembers his behaviour as Secretary (Internal Security). “He did not conduct himself like a dignified Secretary to the Government of India,” the officer recalled. “He looked more like Rajiv Gandhi’s personal security officer, opening and closing doors for him like a portly peon.”
He would have gone home but for the highly unlikely Prime Ministership of the young Turk Chandrashekhar that lasted only three months and the Law Ministership of the maverick Subramaniam Swamy who was a personal friend. When Seshan realised that he was on a Constitutional post where his chair was safe for six years and that he was answerable to no one, he suddenly got transformed into an Alsatian (Al-Seshan). Those were early days for organisations bearing a name with the prefix El- or Al-, like Al-Qaeda. Today, we have got habituated to such sinister names..
The Al-Seshan started his career as the Chief Election Commissioner with a flourish. He forbade the reading of books and magazines by his staff in the library. He ruled that officials placed at his disposal were for the period of their deputation under his administrative and disciplinary control. He could transfer them, suspend them and do anything he liked with them.
He said that no one could disfigure a wall with election posters and slogans. He said that he could deploy police force in a State according to his assessment of need, whether the State Government asked for it or not. He said he would monitor every little bit of expenditure incurred by candidates and deployed Income-Tax Com-missioners to monitor compliance of his instructions......READMORE :

High calling

High calling
Most visitors just spend a night at Keylong on their way up to the rugged cold desert regions of Ladakh. But, it is worth the while to spend a couple of days in this small town as it has much to offer – from picturesque landscape to old monasteries and temples nearby.

by Arun Bhat
IT is surprising that the town of Keylong even exists. In a place dominated by mountains – where slopes are so steep and peaks are so high that even a small patch of flat terrain is a luxury – there somehow exists a part of the valley that is wide enough to accommodate the people of Keylong. Nestled on a small patch of land on the Manali-Leh highway, the town is the last place where some greenery greets the travellers who, more often than not, stop here before starting the second leg of their long journey towards the stark landscape of Ladakh.
It is such a journey that took me to Keylong one evening. I briefly stopped here to rest for a night before heading further north into the trans-Himalayas. But the amazingly tall peaks near Keylong with just a little bit of snow left on their summits, the steep valley where River Bhaga meandered, the green slopes with sweet-pea fields and willow trees, lured me to extend my stay here and postpone my travel.
Lady luck approved my decision to stay on and blessed me by making my presence coincide with the annual festival at the town’s Shashur Monastery. On the day of the fest, I made the long climb up the slopes, breathing heavily in the rarefied air above 10,000 feet. But what kept me going were the views of the valley that kept changing with each step. Mountains on the other side of the valley lost height as I moved up, but still appeared formidable and loomed large. Bhaga River carved a deep gorge in the valley far below, consuming every drop of snowmelt from the mountains. The town of Keylong appeared like a bunch of haphazardly arranged boxes that created an unlikely distraction to an incredible landscape. 

Policing Delhi

A historical account of tackling law and order in a metropolis
Delhi’s rapid urbanisation and its haphazard growth over the years from an acropolis (walled city) to a metropolis (mega city), has given the Delhi Police a tough time catching up with the more diversified forms of crime and its ever-growing law and order demands.
This connection between urbanisation, rising crime and law enforcement in Delhi, a city which has undergone tumultuous socio-political upheavals, is graphically depicted in Policing Delhi – Urbanization, Crime and Law Enforcement, a book written by a serving police officer, O P Mishra.
The book is an academic endeavour that seeks to grapple with the complexities of present day law and order problems of Delhi in a historical context, making what is considered to be a dry subject come alive. It talks about the various rebirths of Delhi as a city and gives a glimpse of the various patterns of policing that have existed since the ancient past, through the Mauryan, the Mughal and more recently, the British eras to the present day.
Mishra traces the various compulsions and constraints under which the city grew and how the city police had to meet the challenges of such growth, particularly after Independence of the country. He refers to the Partition and forced migration, which brought in a huge influx of refugees into Delhi, and how the exclusion of Lahore from the country led to a redistribution of commerce and wholesale trade patterns in northern India.
“Trade and commerce gravitated towards Delhi and old Delhi, which was already congested and under strain,” he notes. As the national capital, Delhi also attracted administrative and bureaucratic establishments and foreign missions. Besides, the normal migration of people from other parts of the country after Independence further aggravated the problems relating to law and order in the city......Read more... 

Anand Bhawan

new abode of mukesh bhai
IT is not only politicians who organise pujas on different occasions, now it is becoming common among business houses also to consult astrologers and Vaastu experts before starting off on a new venture. Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani seems to be the latest one to follow the trend. He has built a beautiful home named Antilia, a 27-storeyed building in South Mumbai. Will he or will he not shift into his new dream home is a matter of discussion among the glitterati and paparazzi alike. After all, it’s been one year since its completion. Apparently, Antilia was not Vaastu oriented. The building was built on land which was abandoned for years, and may have been jinxed. Now, Mukesh’s managers are busy in making the house auspicious so that their master can live in tranquillity and peace. The 15th floor was full of activity in the last week of February. There was continuous puja for 15 days by none other than the chief priest of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, Swami Dev Dixit Hulu. It is said that once this kind of puja is performed with knowledgeable priests, the house becomes pure and habitable. Sources disclosed that Swami Dev Dixit Hulu has also suggested changing the name of the house from Antilia to Anand Bhawan. So wait and watch when Antilia becomes Anand Bhawan and Mukesh Bhai moves in. Good luck to Mukesh Bhai and family.g  

Mulayam: the king

Mulayam: the king
akhilesh: the prince
The moment Akhilesh Yadav formed the government in Uttar Pradesh, there was a furore in the camp of those industrialist houses that had backed out from paying the share money at the fag end of the 2009 elections. The total amount is around Rs 800 crore (and we have the list). Approximately Rs 600 crore is said to have been spent on these elections by Mulayam Singh & Co. With the SP back in power, industrialists especially those with businesses in Greater Noida and Lucknow are ready to pay the pending amount. Mulayam Singh, however, is in no mood to entertain them so soon. Though he has installed Akhilesh Yadav as CM, he still calls all the shots. One of the major decisions taken by the new government is to do away with the monopoly of Gurdeep Singh Chadha alias Ponty Chaddha in the liquor business. If sources are to be believed, all liquor shops in UP will be allotted to SP workers, who have been thirsty for last five years. This is typically the Mulayam style of keeping his workers happy and rich. Akhilesh Yadav was also not allowed to choose his cabinet and Mulayam’s old team of Shiv Pal Singh Yadav, Ram Gopal Yadav and Mohd Azam Khan are very much in the government. Akhilesh Yadav’s claim to have a clean government will be tested when he stops the collection of gunda tax which was to the tune of Rs 3 crore per day from contractors and big business houses in the Mayawati regime.g

Sidhu’s sixer

navjot sidhu sows the seeds
How would you categorise Navjot Singh Sidhu? Firebrand TV personality? An efficient Member of Parliament from Amritsar in Punjab? Ace cricketer? The image one draws from his TV shows is that of a non-serious politician but remember, the small screen never provides the full picture. One fine day, Sidhu knocked at the door of a resident in Amritsar, that too at six in the morning. The resident could not believe his eyes to see Sidhu at his home along with his wife. He hurriedly went inside and woke up the rest of his family. Everybody got ready in minutes and came out to welcome Sidhu. In the meantime, Sidhu had gathered other neighbours and announced that he had come to clean up their neighbourhood and do tree plantation on the streets. He was accompanied by an entourage of officials from the Amritsar Municipal Corporation. It was like magic, say the residents. In no time, the plantation was done, the neighbourhood cleaned and like a good batsman after hitting sixes, Sidhu returned to the pavilion amidst cheers. g

Money bags for Rajya Sabha seats

Money bags for Rajya Sabha seats
essar vs essar
Parimal Nathwani (businessman), RK Anand, (advocate), Nishikant Dube (facilitator of Essar Group), and KD Singh (businessman from Chandigarh) have all become Rajya Sabha Members from Jharkhand without having any political base in the state. So Anshuman Mishra cannot be faulted for thinking that he too could aspire to be a Rajya Sabha member as he was close to BJP President Nitin Gadkari. He had been helping Gadkari and the BJP for the last five years with all the possible means at his disposal. But his claim opened a pandora’s box within the BJP. Everybody was surprised when it was noticed that Jet Airways owner Naresh Goyal, Kumar-amangalam Birla and the Ruia brothers were advocating in his favour. Mishra is chairman and co-Founder of MPH Holdings and was most recently employed by Investec Bank in London, UK. He came into the limelight when he introduced Subrato Sahara to Bill Clinton during his visit to India as US President. Mishra has been instrumental in creating an aircraft finance business in India, a media company in Mumbai and a business advisory company. A Deepak Chopra acquaintance and disciple of Mahesh Yogi, Mishra’s gameplan was punctured by none other than Nishikant Dube, who is said to be close to Arun Jaitley. The fact is that Dubey, who has until now managed corporate lobbying for the Ruia brothers (the Essar Group), did not want another Brahmin face from Jharkhand. Also, Dubey wasn’t quite happy with Mishra’s new-found friendship with his corporate bosses, Shashi and Prashant Ruia. In the entire circus, the real winner was SS Ahluwalia, who is close to both Sushma Swaraj and Lal Krishna Advani. Had Gadkari been able to get Ahluwalia elected from anywhere else, Anshuman Mishra would have been in Parliament without a noise.g     

Sojourn under compulsion

Sojourn under compulsion
Everywhere one looks these days, there seems to be some sort of scam or scandal. One would think that the top bosses would be less brash these days. But this is obviously not the case. One of the secretaries in a ministry handling corporate matters was transferred to a new ministry. He joined as fast as he could because in any case he was not getting along with the minister. But the top bosses thought otherwise. They refused to relieve him till he did not complete the million-dollar agreements already in the ministry’s pipeline. The top bosses were so desperate that the secretary had to travel abroad on Holi to Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, and South Africa to finalise coal purchase agreements and personally visit the mines. Sources disclosed that the secretary was instructed to finalise agreements amounting to Rs 20,000 crore as fast as he could. The Posco deal also had to be finalised. The renovation of various plants, worth around Rs 6 billion, was also in the pipeline. The top bosses of the government obviously don’t want to lose time as they themselves don’t know how long they will be in command.g

Deciding indecisively

Deciding indecisively
The Directorate of Enforcement is in the limelight these days as it is probing the multi-billion dollar 2G spectrum allocation case in addition to handling cases related to ex-Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda and IAS couple Tinu and Arvind Joshi. Despite all the action, the Directorate, or ED as it is commonly known as, had been directionless for a long time. After Arun Kumar Mathur retired, the government initially appointed Amitabh Ranjan, a 1979 batch Maharashtra cadre IAS. But barely a month later, he was appointed as Home Secretary Maharashtra, so he had to go. Then, Rakesh Singh, additional secretary in the Department of Financial Services, a 1978 batch IAS officer of Punjab cadre, was temporarily selected. All this dilly dallying over the appointment of the ED was apparently because, as per reports, the Prime Ministers’ Office and Finance Ministry didn’t see eye to eye. Finally, the government has zeroed down on Dr Rajan S Katoch, additional secretary and financial adviser in the Ministry of Commerce, a 1979 batch IAS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre. Katoch now has the mammoth responsibility of dealing with all the big sharks and searching for tax evaders and tax havens. In a corruption-ridden atmosphere, he not only has to save the reputation of the Directorate but protect his own image of being a hardworking and action-oriented professional.g   

Race for TRAI

Race for TRAI
It’s no secret that regulators are more powerful than ministers nowadays, whether it is the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) or the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). No wonder, the race for the TRAI chairmanship has already started even though the post will be vacant only in May. RP Singh, ex-Industry Secretary and great pusher of FDI in retail, is said to be the frontrunner for prestigious post. A selection committee comprising Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth and Principal Secretary to the PM, Pulok Chatterji, has been charged with choosing the new incumbent. For it is the new guy who will decide the fate of the scam-ridden telecom companies. Another strong contender is Sekhar Agarwal, the Secretary Defence Production, a 1977 batch IAS officer. He has been in the ministry since February 2008. RP Singh is close to the Manmohan camp and has been the main initiator of the FDI plan of the Prime Minister. When he was Secretary, Industrial Promotion and Planning, it was known in Udyog Bhawan that he never cared for political intervention. It is to be seen whether Manmohan Singh will be able to bring in RP Singh as the Chairman of TRAI given the sensitivity of scams in the telecom sector and the involvement of big entrepreneurs.g

Two make the team

Two make the team
Doordarshan has two new bosses: First, Jawhar Sircar as CEO Prasar Bharati and the second, Tripurari Saran as DG Doordarshan. Jawhar Sircar retired as Secretary Culture and knows the art and culture world well. Tripurari Saran is an old hand from the film and art field. Already, Saran has cleared one major mess relating to the sanctioning of Urdu TV projects. He has brought in talented people on the selection committee and the final list of empanelled producers is in the making. Everyone is now hoping that DD operations will get a makeover. BS Lalli, the former Prasar Bharati CEO, ran the public broadcasting medium like his personal fiefdom. If sources are to be believed, DD will no longer be a guesthouse for unemployed producers. The latter were producing ‘c’ category programmes and were mushrooming day by day by paying 50 per cent commission of the sanctioned budget to Mandi House mandarins. Of course, DD is still in a mess and has to regain its old glory. The new Sircar-Saran team are trying to make it entertaining and more informative. One will soon see Aamir Khan, Ketan Mehta, Gulzar, Saeed Mirza and Govind Nihalani as part of DD’s talent pool. There seems to be no doubt that Sircar’s sharp understanding and Saran’s practical knowledge will rejuvenate DD. Now the top bosses of the I&B Ministry have to be patient and not interfere by sending lists of unemployed producers and programmes to be sanctioned. Take a break, guys.g